In sixteenth century London, Edward, the Prince of Wales, feels weighed down by the seriousness of his position and decides to venture from the royal court to get a taste of the outside world. By chance he meets Tom Canty, a beggar boy and sometime thief who bears a strong resemblance to him, and proposes that they switch identities for a time. Tom agrees, and while Edward remains behind on the street, Tom returns to the court. Each boy is subjected to the pains of the other's life, Edward, the dangers of poverty and crime, Tom, the overbearing responsibilities of power. When King Henry VIII dies, Tom finds himself about to be crowned ruler and unveils himself as an imposter, but the court merely declares him mad. Edward falls victim to a gang of thieves headed by Tom's father, who, because of the profit he brings in, refuses to let the prince leave. After some effort, however, Edward escapes and arrives at Westminster Abbey in time to stop the coronation of the beggar Tom.